BOLLI Matters welcomes Dennis Greene as he joins Abby Pinard as a “Book Nook” contributor.
HARRY’S TREES This Summer’s Must-Read Novel
Review by Dennis Greene
I just read an advance copy of Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen, a novel which will become available in bookstores on June 12. By next winter, this uplifting tale will be the subject of discussion in book clubs across the country, and people will speculate about who will be cast in the movie. Opera may even get into the act. It’s that good. I encourage you to read it as soon as it is available, and before all the hype. Then tell all your friends about it. You will appear prescient to those who take your advice, and you will gain their gratitude and respect. Then, later, when that irritating know-it-all in your study group or book club recommends Harry’s Trees after it has become trendy, you can have the satisfaction of smiling smugly and announcing that you read it “months ago.” And even if none of the forgoing happens, you will still have enjoyed a fun read.
Harry’s Trees is not an easy book to categorize. My local bookstore checked its inventory listing and informed me that the book was designated as “a book about trees.” Harry’s Trees is no more “a book about trees” than The Maltese Falcon is “a book about falcons.” The computer’s one-word description confuses the backdrop with the story. Harry’s Trees is about the half-dozen loving relationships among a small group of well-drawn, genuinely decent people living in a small Pennsylvania town. Many of them are suffering from devastating losses, and several are burdened with crushing guilt, but as the action unfolds, they come together and end up saving one another. The story is uplifting rather than gloomy or depressing. As the narrative moves smoothly from scene to scene, with enough action and tension to keep the pages turning, and enough humor to mitigate the tension, the author weaves several dozen threads into an enchanting tale. There is a resourceful and strong willed nine-year-old girl named Oriana who rivals Mattie Ross, the heroine in True Grit, an ancient librarian named Olive who smokes a meerschaum pipe and seems as wise as Dumbledore, a hidden cache of $4,000,000 in gold bullion, a town where everyone knows your name, two bad guys who are too dimwitted to prevail, and one guilt-ridden bureaucrat named Harry who has fled his government office job to live in a treehouse near his beloved trees. At the center of the story is a mysterious leather book titled The Grum’s Ledger which changes hands several times during the narrative. The book influences Oriana and Harry to embark on a preposterous scheme which Oriana believes could fill the voids in each of their lives.
In a time of so much pessimism and general malaise, this beautifully written book reminds us that there are lots of decent people in the world; good things can happen; and a belief in magic can’t hurt. And as an added bonus for anyone interested, you will also learn quite a bit about trees. Harry’s.
Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie. He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since.
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